Heb 8:8 A New Covenant 10/22/2017 ßà
#1. A Better Covenant (Heb 7:22, 8:1-6)
#2. The First and the Second Covenant (Heb 8:7,7:11-12,18-19, Rom 7:13,8:3, Ex 28:1, Gal 3:24)
#3. For All Shall Know Me (Heb 8:11-12, John 14:6)
Please open your Bibles to the Epistle to the Hebrews, Heb 8:1 (2X). Today we have installment # 16 in the series “The Simplicity of the Gospel”. In this series I will try to present the material in easy to understand, simple language. But since this is an educational tool, I am also choosing passages that have been poorly understood by most people, and I will try to shed some light on those passages. And thus, the topics covered will not be in the childishly simple category. For example, these days I am discussing the subject of the Covenant, which for most people is a confusing and difficult subject. But if I want to present it in easy to understand phrases I must divide it over many sermons. And so, the title of today’s sermon is, “A New Covenant”, which God mentions here in Heb 8. But a New Covenant implies that there is an Old Covenant. Can we now equate the New Covenant with the Covenant of Grace, and can we equate the Old Covenant with the Covenant of the Law? The answer is a definite NO! Let me explain this answer in this sermon, and let me first do a review of what we have learned.
Two weeks ago we have seen from Gal 4:21-31 that there are Two Covenants: There is the Covenant of the Law, represented by Hagar, and there is the Covenant of Grace, represented by Sarah. However, we have also seen that these two covenants are NOT representing two consecutive periods of time, as if the OT time was representing the Covenant of the Law and the NT time was representing the Covenant of Grace. That is not so! Hagar and Sarah were contemporaries, which means they lived in the same time period. Both covenants are in effect at the same time, both in the OT as well as in the NT time. All the elect of God are always under the Covenant of Grace, whereas all the non-elect are always under the Covenant of the Law. The non-elect are required to keep all the commands of the Law of God all the time, for they were born bound to the Law as if it was their husband. However the elect of God are at some point in their life translated into the Kingdom of Christ, for the Law has no continuing power over them. Last week we saw from Gal 3:15-18 that the Covenant of Grace can be understood as God’s Last Will and Testament for His elect. That testament contains great promises of immensely great gifts that God is going to give away. And that testament has a list of beneficiaries whom God will cause to inherit this great inheritance. That list of beneficiaries is the list of all of God’s elect, which are those whom God chose from before the foundation of the world to become the inheritors of Himself and to become the Bride of Christ. All of this is a little fuzzy because we do not fully understand how all three Persons of the Godhead can be one God. But Christ is God Himself. And so, when God said to Abraham in Gen 15:1, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward”, we must understand that God said this because Christ was going to adopt Abraham and all those who qualify as children of Abraham as His Bride, and as His Body. And so, before the foundation of the world God placed all the elect in Christ; not physically, for we did not exist yet, and our souls did not exist yet. But God says in Rom 5 that effectually Christ became our representative in the Spirit, just like Adam was our representative in the flesh. And we have seen last week that God confirmed His Last Will and Testament, the Covenant of Grace, three times in history: #1, from the foundation of the world, for Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; #2, when God swore to Abraham that He would give him a multitude of children as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore; and #3, when Christ hung on the cross, for that is when the Testator of the Will has died. But then, when God the Holy Spirit gave us a soul that was born from above, we gradually realized the blessing of having our names written in heaven, and then we understood that the Law has no power over us, since Christ delivered us from the power of the Law by making us die with Him.
This concept of the Covenant as a Last Will and Testament of God was not invented by the man on the radio, even though he claims that he discovered it. This was published in books long before the year 1950. Already in the writings of John Calvin we can see how he derived from Gal 3:15-18 that a great similarity exists between the Covenant of Grace and a man’s last will and testament. And so, we need not be concerned that we are developing into a cult by treading on uncertain and new paths that were not known before by the church. These things have been know for a long time. But nobody is reading that old stuff any more. However, when we recognize the Covenant as God’s Last Will and Testament we can understand more clearly God’s statements in the Bible concerning election and reprobation, and we can see more clearly the love of God and the providence of God in our lives.
#1. A Better Covenant (Heb 7:22, 8:1-6)
Heb 8:1 ¶ Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
Heb 8:2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
Heb 8:5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
Heb 8:6 ¶
This chapter begins by comparing the priesthood of Christ with the Aaronic priesthood in the Law of Moses. Verse 1 summarizes the statements of chapter 7 that Christ is our great high priest according to the order of Melchisedec. And Heb 7:22 states (2X) that “Jesus was made a surety of a better testament, or a better covenant”. This “better covenant” obviously refers to the Covenant of Grace that Christ made for us in this NT time. And thus we need to come to grips with the concept how the present covenant differs from what it has been. The beginning of this chapter tells us what it has been. Verse 3 speaks about the high priests in the Law of Moses, who were all descendants of Aaron, of the tribe of Levi, and who were ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices to God. But, verse 4 continues, if Christ were still on earth, He would not be a priest like all the other Aaronic priests, for they offer gifts that are specified by the Law of Moses. They offered gifts that were all shadows of the gift that Christ came to bring on the cross. They offer only gifts that are shadows, whereas Christ offered the gift that was the substance of all those shadows. That is the difference between Aaronic priests and the priest-hood of Christ. Therefore, this is the first reason why Christ gave us a better covenant now. And thus when we read verse 6 we should recognize four points: #1, A more excellent ministry. #2, A Mediator. #3, A better covenant. #4, Based on better promises. Can you see where this chapter 8 is heading for?
Please put a sticker here in Heb 8 and turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Galatians, Gal 4:24 (2X). Here in Heb 8 God shows us the transition from a mode of operation under the Ceremonial Law to a mode of operation where the Ceremonial Law has been done away, because all the things in the Ceremonial Law were only signs and shadows of Christ and of the atonement of Christ. The OT economy of things has been replaced by the NT economy of things, for Christ has died and has fulfilled all the requirements of the Ceremonial Law forever. And so, when God speaks about a better covenant we realize that it is the Covenant of Grace after the cross, after the Ceremonial Law has been done away. But then, we should not equate the former mode of operation under the Ceremonial Law as the covenant characterized by Hagar in Gal 4:24. For there we read in Gal 4:24-25,
The covenant characterized by Hagar “gendereth to bondage”, which means it leaves people in bondage, under the Law and not under grace, it leaves them unsaved, and enslaved to sin and Satan. The word “bondage” refers to slavery, and never does God speak about a saved person who is in bondage. There were many saints in the OT days who were under the Covenant of Grace. But for about 1400 years the Israelites were commanded to obey the Ceremonial Law. David was a saved man, and David was required to obey the Ceremonial Law. But God does not speak of David as being in bondage. David was under the Covenant of Grace. And so we see that here in Heb 8 God speaks about Two Covenants that represent the Covenant of Grace before the cross, and the Covenant of Grace after the cross. Before the cross the Ceremonial Law was superimposed on the Covenant of Grace. These are the 2 covenants that Heb 8 speaks of. We need to remember that the Ceremonial Law is not able to undo what God in His Last Will and Testament determined in the first place, even if there has been a violation of the Law. We have seen last week that the Law has no power over any of God’s elect, for Christ has neutralized the penalty for sin on behalf of every one of His elect.
Moreover, when we speak of the Covenant of grace we may not speak of it as a contract between
God and man, as if there would be a contract between God and man in the OT time. For example, you understand clearly that there can be no contract between you and an ant that crawls in your backyard. The two parties are very unequal. The ant does not know you and cannot really know who you are. The ant is not seeking to know the human being that is you. But you know everything about that ant. You have observed the ant for a while. You know what it presently is doing, and you know what it will do in the next 15 minutes. You are able to give the ant a great gift, but the ant cannot give you a great gift. And you cannot impose a contract between you and the ant. You cannot impose a condition like, “If you act this way, then I will do this and that for you”. Now, that is somewhat the situation between God and man. The Covenant of grace is NOT a mutual agreement between God and man. God is not saying, “If you believe in Christ, then I will give you a great reward”. Do not be ignorant about who God is. Man is very small and God is very great. He created the universe. God is greater than this great wide universe which He made. This great God does not enter into an agreement of friendship with mortal man. The two parties are very unequal. Man does not really understand how great God is. Man does not seek for God, for God says in Rom 3:11, “There is NONE that seeketh after God”.
And who are we? Our galaxy is just a speck of dust in this great wide universe. Our solar system is just a speck of dust in this great wide galaxy. Our planet Earth is one of the tinier planets in our solar system. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are all much larger than this earth. And on this earth we are in the sight of God only as small specks of dust. God says in Isa 40:15, “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing”. God is great, and we are nothing. How can anyone be so arrogant to assume that Almighty God enters into a mutual agreement with mortal man? Absolutely not! And really, the inspired Hebrew and Greek words that have been translated “covenant” bear this out. The Hebrew word for “Covenant” means it is God’s self-imposed obligation for the reconciliation of sinners to Himself. The word “Covenant” in the Greek NT literally means it is something “put through” by a major power. The primary application of that word is a disposition of property by a “Last Will and Testament”. And herein we see the instrument of God’s redemptive love, both in the OT Covenant of Grace as well as in the NT Covenant of Grace. If we understand that the Covenant of Grace is the Last Will and Testament of God, then we then realize that the Covenant is really the heart and the center of all God’s special revelation. For out of the Covenant which God has made for man’s salvation flow all the elements of His plan for the Gospel, and all the elements of election and reprobation that fill the pages of the Bible. Please turn again to the Epistle to the Hebrews, Heb 8:6 (2X). Now we can try to understand why this better covenant was based on better promises. How can the Last Will and Testament of God be based on anything? Well, Heb 8:6 says that it is legislated, or established, on better promises. These are not the promises of the Covenant itself, for the promise of the Covenant is the inheritance, which is eternal life with Christ in the NH&NE, and this inheritance is the same for OT saints as well as for NT saints. No, these promises in the OT economy were that Messiah would come and He would take away the guilt of sins of the OT saints. And their faith was to look forward to the Christ who would come to take away their sins, but they did not know how He would come. The promises in the NT economy are that Christ has come, and has suffered on the cross the equivalent of an eternity in Hell for all those whom He came to save, and has fulfilled all the requirements of the Ceremonial Law for us in our place. Therefore the “better covenant” consist herein that the OT Ceremonial Law has been done away. Now in the following verses God gives the better covenant a new name: “The New Covenant”.
#2. The First and the Second Covenant (Heb 8:7,7:11-12,18-19, Rom 7:13,8:3, Ex 28:1, Gal 3:24)
Heb 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. (What is God saying in this passage?)
In verse 7 God says, “If that first covenant had been faultless”, implying that there was some weakness in that first covenant. Certainly there was not an error in that first covenant, for God dictated that covenant to Moses, and God would not deliberately give Moses a covenant with errors. But God gave as an integral part of that first covenant the Law, which was weak in that the Law could not change the human heart. And thus there were very few people under the first covenant who understood what salvation was about. Please turn one page to your left, to Heb 7:11 (2X). There are in this passage at least two reasons why God changed that first covenant into a New Covenant. #1. God says in Heb 7:11-12 that the Levitical priesthood was not perfect. We read in Heb 7:11-12,
Heb 7:11 ¶
Heb 7:12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
Therefore, since Christ had to come as a priest according to the order of Melchisedec, and thereby
become our perfect high priest, the Law had to be changed, and thus the covenant had to be modified. It was still the Covenant of Grace; for there can be only one covenant that saves and thus there can be only one Last Will and Testament of God, for there can be only one death of Christ, the Testator of that Will. OT people as well as NT people were saved under the one Covenant of Grace. Therefore, both the first covenant as well as the second covenant were both the Covenant of Grace.
#2. Secondly, people continued deliberately in sin regardless how great the penalty for sin was. The Law did not hold them back from sinning. The Law could not change their heart, and that is why God gave a New Covenant emphasizing that people did receive a new heart. The Law magnified sin and thus sin became exceedingly sinful, as we read in Rom 7:13, and as we read in Heb 7:18-19 (2X).
Heb 7:18-19 Foor there is verily a disannulling of the
commandment going before, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the
bringing in of a better hope (
did); by the which we draw nigh unto God.
Which commandment, singular, is God speaking about? God speaks about the commandment to draw the line of priests from Aaron and his sons, which is written in Ex 28:1. This commandment was called weak and unprofitable, for the line of OT priests were not necessarily saved. The Law did not change their heart. Likewise the whole Law is called weak, in Rom 8:3, for it was not able to change the heart of man. Therefore in verse 18 God speaks about the “disannulling of the commandment” which had to go on before the New Covenant was given. And therefore in verse 19 God says that the Law made nothing perfect, except it brought in a better hope. The word “did” really did not belong there for it is a suggestion by the translators. How did the Law bring in a better hope? God says in Gal 3:24, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith”. The Law made us aware that we need a Savior who saves us from our sins, This is how the Law draws us to Christ. Please turn again to Heb 8:7 (2X). These then are the reasons why God wrote in Heb 8:7, “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second”.
Heb 8:8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
Heb 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
Notice in verse 8 where God finds fault. Not with the Covenant, but with “them”. They, the natural children of Jacob, the thirteen tribes of Israel, were at fault for not adhering to the covenant that God had set up for them, for they regarded not the laws of His covenant. Therefore, finding fault with them God promised in Jer 31 that He would set up a New Covenant with another group of people, namely “the house of Israel and the house of Judah”. Now we know that this New Covenant is God’s Last Will and Testament where all those who are called God’s elect, or who are called the remnant chosen by grace, are named as the beneficiaries of this New Covenant. Therefore, we should not think that “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” refer to the physical descendants of Jacob. Quite the contrary. The house of Israel must refer to the house of Christ, for we have learned a long time ago that Christ is also called Israel. And the house of Judah refers to those who are called Jews, for the name Jew derives from the name Judah. But who are in the eyes of God called the spiritual Jews? It is the same group of people who are in the eyes of God in the house of Christ. God says in Rom 2:28-29,
This is very clear! We may not sweep this statement under the rug. God applies this definition of spiritual Jews many times in the Bible, and we should be aware of it when we read the Word of God. For example, this is the definition of the name Jews in the Scroll of Esther in the OT. It must be so, or else the Scroll of Esther loses its entire meaning as a message from God to us. And so, God says in Jer 31:31 and in Heb 8:8 that the days come when God will make a New Covenant with the remnant chosen by grace. No longer will He deal with this remnant by making them subject to the Ceremonial Law, but after the cross, when the Ceremonial Law has been done away by God, He will deal with this remnant without the Ceremonial Law. They may not be circumcised for religious reasons, and they may not offer animal sacrifices for religious reasons, and they may not set up for themselves a line of priests who sacrifice Christ repeatedly, and they may not keep the Saturday Sabbath as their day of worship, and so on. All these actions are abominations to God, for all these actions reflect their beliefs that Christ has not yet come. God has better things and better promises for His remnant chosen by grace, and God wants us to abide by His new set of principles, because Christ has come and has taken up His reign as Commander of His army and as King over the Kingdom of Christ. This then is the message of Heb 8:8 wherein God announces His New Covenant. And then God says, paraphrased:
Look at the character of God’s dealings with the Remnant chosen by grace. God says in verse 10, “the covenant that I will make”, and “I will put my laws in their mind”, and “I will be to them a God”. Who is taking all the initiative for binding the remnant to God? God says, “I will do it”. This is the character of the New Covenant of Grace. Look at the love of God for His elect; God will see to it that not one of them will be forgotten. Look at the determination of God, who is making sure that not one of them will be lacking. Look at the planning and the providence of God who is making sure that everyone of His elect will have a new heart that loves God: “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people”. In other words, where is the stubborn individual that resists God’s grace? Where is the unbelieving individual that refuses to believe? They are not found, for God’s irresistible grace has taken over their will, and their evil desires, and their unbelief. We have read in Ezek 36 about God’s power to change a stony human heart into a heart of flesh, and about God’s Spirit moving into our human heart and cause us to walk in His statutes. We have read in John 3 how God’s Spirit makes a man born from above. This is taking place in everyone who is one of the remnant chosen by grace. Everyone who is an elect of God shall experience this transformation at one point in his life, for God takes the initiative for binding the remnant to Himself. And what God begins He also finishes without any doubt.
Where then does this leave the Arminian thought that man has a free will to choose to love Christ, or to reject Christ? It is totally absent from all that we read in Heb 8. O, they are pointing to verse 9 and they say, “You see, it is possible to resist God’s grace for salvation”. It is possible to fall away from God’s covenant”. They tend to forget that God’s dealings with OT Israel were only pictures of how God deals with His elect, the remnant chosen by grace. Remember the words of Gal 4:25, where God says,
Ga 4:25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
“Jerusalem which now is” symbolizes the nation of Israel, which are the Jews that are so proud of their heritage of being sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But God says here that He rejected them, and that God does not consider them as sons of Sarah, but sons of Hagar. And God says in Heb 3 that most of those who came out of Egypt died in the wilderness in unbelief. They could not enter into the kingdom of God. They died as unbelievers. Would we take them as our examples? Of course not! Which category would we rather be? Would we want to be in the group that has a free will and ends up in Hell where also the rebellious Israelites are, or would we want to be in the group that does not have a free will and whose heart and mind is changed by God? Our choice is clearly with the group whose heart and mind is changed by God. We would not want it any other way. But if we take a second look at verse 9, don’t we see there clearly that they had a free will to sin? And that is indeed so. The only free will man has is the free will to sin. But we do not want to pride ourselves on our free will. We want to be subjects of the one true God, and of Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Let us then consider:
#3. For All Shall Know Me (Heb 8:11-12, John 14:6)
What is God saying in verse 11? God says, “For all shall know me, from the least to the greatest”. All who are among the remnant chosen by grace shall know God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Does this mean that we can know God fully in this life? NO! We cannot know God in all His glory in this life, for God is infinitely great. But in what sense will we know God? Look at the context. Verse 12 begins with the word “For”. What is the word “For” there for? It refers to the previous verse. It refers to knowing God. And therefore it refers to knowing God as a merciful God. God says of Himself that He delights in mercy. Therefore this passage refers to knowing Christ as our great and merciful high priest. It refers to knowing what it means that Jesus Christ was crucified for my sins. Do we understand this concept? Let us look again at verse 11, When God says “every man” God does not mean this in the absolute sense of the word. God refers to every man of the house of Israel, as mentioned in verse 10. Also, when God says in verse 11, “for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest”, this word “all” does not refer to everyone in the world, but it refers to all those of the house of Israel, from verse 10. Likewise, when God says in verse 12, “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness”, God does not mean that He is going to be merciful to everyone in the world, for that is not found in the Bible. But God is going to be merciful to the unrighteousness of His remnant chosen by grace, which is the house of Israel from verse 10. Can we see the exclusivity in this verse? Can we see that God speaks about His plan of election? This verse says very plainly that God will have mercy upon those on whom He delights to have mercy. It means that He will withhold from us what we deserve. We deserve to go to Hell. But if God will be merciful to our unrighteousness He shall withhold Hell from us. Moreover, when God says in verse 12, “their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more”, God is not referring to a plan of forgiving the sins of everyone in the world, for that is not found in the Bible. Instead God speaks of forgiving the sins of His remnant chosen by grace, which is the house of Israel from verse 10. Can we see the exclusivity in this verse? Can we see that God speaks of Limited Atonement? The Lord Jesus Christ did not suffer and die on the cross for the sins of every human being on this world. The Lord said this plainly in John 14:6 where He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”. If no man can come to the Father but by Jesus, then the millions of people who came into the world before Jesus was born, and who lived and died without ever having heard that they must be saved by the Lord Jesus, they could not obey the command to believe on Jesus, for they have never heard that such a command exists. Therefore they shall personally have to give account of their sins, and be cast into Hell, for the Lord said, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me”. And thus we should not be afraid of Limited Atonement, or Particular Atonement, for this is what the Bible teaches. And so, coming back to verse 11, when God speaks of all of us knowing God, He speaks of us knowing Him as the God who saves His elect, and the Lord Jesus Christ who atoned for the sins of His elect, and for His elect only. This is what the context of Heb 8:11-12 speaks about.
Let us then rejoice over this New Covenant that God has so wisely designed for our benefit. Let us rejoice that God by His Holy Spirit will teach us all things that are necessary for us to know concerning our salvation. Let us rejoice that God has chosen us in His Covenant of Grace, for if we have received the faith that embraces the true Gospel, then we know that our names have been written in that Last will and Testament of God. Let us rejoice that God has drawn us to Himself, the only true and living God, for He has said, “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people”.
AMEN. Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.